UN fears Libya's IS could relocate from coastal stronghold

UN fears Libya's IS could relocate from coastal stronghold
Following losses of IS' Libyan affiliate's territories in Sirte, the UN has warned the group could relocate to a different part of Libya.
2 min read
19 July, 2016
Could IS set up a stronghold elsewhere in Libya? [Getty]
Islamic State group fighters could set up new cells across Libya and North Africa, as they are driven south and westwards from their Libyan stronghold, the UN has warned.

It comes after pro-government militias continue to win back territories from the group who occupy the coastal city of Sirte.
If the city falls, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the threat from the IS and "foreign terrorist fighters" would be far from over.

"The recent pressure against [IS] in Libya could lead its members - including [foreign terrorist fighters] - to relocate and regroup in smaller and geographically dispersed cells throughout Libya and in neighbouring countries," Ban said in the report.

The defeat of IS fighters in Sirte "appears to be a distinct possibility", leading many to flee south - and west, towards Tunisia.
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"The future impact of scattered [IS] combatants on southern local armed groups may become an issue of concern," he said.

Libyan forces allied to the UN-backed government in Tripoli have been battling to take Sirte from IS fighters for the past two months.

The coastal city is considered one of IS' most important bases outside its main territories in Syria and Iraq.

There are between 2,000 and 5,000 IS fighters from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Mauritania deployed in Sirte, Tripoli and Derna, according to a confidential report to the Security Council, obtained by AFP.

Dozens of foreign fighters from Tunisia have returned home from Libya "with the intent to conduct attacks", it added.

The ties extend further afield, with funds from Libya sent to the militant group's affiliate in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, the report said.

Ban said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - which is active in Mali and across the Sahel region - continues to use Libya as a sanctuary and a base to buy arms and ammunition.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar - leader of the al-Mourabitoun group active in the Sahel - is able to travel throughout Libya with relative ease while the head of Ansar al-Dine in northern Mali, Iyad Ag Ghaly, maintains a foothold in southern Libya, the report said.